Saturday, October 22, 2016


Shocking news: I’m going to attempt 50K in NaNo this year. Like, really give it the ol’ “try my best to meet that word count even if it kills me” attempt.

I’ve participated for years. Though I never really “try” since (1) I’m not much of a fast drafter and (2) I’m usually editing something in November. So my “participation” usually means showing up at the NaNo events and working in a group setting. THAT’S the part of NaNo I adore, the community.

But this year the stars aligned and I have to write a draft STAT so that I allow myself time to edit and expand it before I need to turn it in. So the faster I get that first draft written and marinating in my head, the better.

I average about 20K a month, every month. That number is steady even when I have other editing going on, and life stuff, etc. You would think the jump between 20K and 50K isn’t much. But let me tell you: it so is. I don’t know if I can do it.

Especially since I have a huge chunk of time in November when I’m not going to be able to participate. I have exactly 20 free days next month. This means I need to write 2500 per day to meet 50K. OMG. 

HONESTY: That number (2500 per day), I don’t know if it’s possible for a single day, let alone 20 times.

To hit my average (20K a month target) I write 1K M-F and then catch up on the weekends if I don’t meet that goal. Yeah. It’s a pathetic number, I agree. Especially since writing is my full time job. You’d think if I stayed home during the day with 6 hours of dedicated writing time, I’d end up with more than 1K a day. Not so much.

The reality is that I DO need to increase my production of words overall. Because my numbers are pathetic and I need to work out a new strategy going forward. Or at least prove to myself that writing more in a day is completely possible. I’m hoping that NaNo will help me do that—GET OUT OF MY HEAD and work.

I won’t write endless crap, though, just to make the word count. Typical NaNo advice is: don’t erase anything, just keep writing words even if the words don’t mean anything. Or add a sex scene. Or blow something up!

So, NO. That’s not going to happen. I’ve got to have a working draft by the end of this. The whole point of fast drafting is for me to end up with something useable so that I have MORE time to edit and craft it into something amazing before my deadline.

Okay so now we come to the second part of this post where I give some advice. I’m kind of a NaNo junky which means that I LOVE to read/watch everyone’s thoughts on it.

Here’s my two cents if you want it.

How to write a useable first draft:

  • No two novels will be written the same even by the same author. I don’t know why this is. But whatever. Don’t try to follow advice that’s not working for you. Any advice should enhance your own flow as a writer, not drive you insane.

  • Remember that first drafts are junk. And by that I mean: the editing is really where the novel is. So if you don’t like the section you’re writing—SKIP IT. If it’s boring, you’re probably going to cut it anyway. Focus on the story. If you get ideas for world building, write that down. Ideas for characters, write that down. But really: story, story, story. All the other crap… uh, I mean enhancing… can come later.

  • You don’t need to write linearly. If you want to, great. But as far as I’m concerned: Screw that, man. I can’t tell you how often I work backward. I mean, how are you supposed to know how to plan stuff beforehand without writing the end result? Added to this point: get Scrivener. If you’re working in Word, then you are forced to write linear. That’s how the program is set up. With Scrivener you can write all over the place and rearrange to suit your needs.

  • You also don’t need to write full scenes. That’s another thing that Scrivener is good for: collecting pieces of a scene within a designated chapter. Write a section of dialog. Or a section of atmosphere. Whatever you feel needs to be in that particular scene—BUT DON’T CONNECT IT. You can put it together later. The reasons for not connecting them now is that you can move the pieces into other scenes if you find that necessary at a later point (as I often do), AND you won’t end up with one long piece of text that has pages of world building followed by pages of dialog. That crap all needs to be interspersed. If it starts out broken apart when you edit, it’s THAT MUCH EASIER. Especially if you’ve taken the time to label your sections.

  • Know where you’re going. I’m a plotter, BUT even if you’re a pantser, it’s MUCH easier if you have a goal on the horizon. If you don’t, well… the draft is not so usable, you know? Because you’re going to have a LOT of wandering to cut and reshape.

  • Keep notes within your mess of a draft. This is especially helpful when you’re writing out of order because suddenly you’ll have an epiphany which means that several things have to happen within the draft leading up to that point. Note each thing in the section that it should happen so you remember it when you get there. I do this by creating a doc (obviously each chapter for me would be a folder) labeled NOTES and then I change the icon to a yellow notepad. Then when I get to that scene I can split the screen (as you can do in Scrivener) with the notes on the right and work on the left.

  • If you feel like you’re on the wrong track, STOP FOR A DAY AND THINK THROUGH YOUR PLOT. That’s your gut telling you that you’re veering off-course. A big part of writing is instinct. Hone that. You will thank me later.

And that concludes my practical advice on drafting.

I do want to throw in that you don’t have to be afraid to switch up your manuscript during drafting, or after drafting. Part of the reason that I adore Scrivener is the ability to move everything around and reorganize. Make use of the notecard feature. It works. Sometimes a writer has to step back and visually see the draft in plotted pieces—rather than words—in order to recognize where the beats should/should not be.

Happy NaNoing.

Ohhhhh, and friend me (HLHansen)!!!!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016


I’ve been avoiding social media for the most part. One, because it feels like insanity out there. ESPECIALLY on Twitter. Every day there seems to be a new explosion. But here too because The Words, they don’t want to come. It’s a dry, DRY well of nothing.

The second reason I’ve been on a social media hiatus is because I’ve been busy. I’ve got so much to do, yo.

I’m working on reading through my proof copy for THE BREAKING LIGHT. It’s the last time it will be in my hands so I feel like I need to check every word one more time.

I’m also drafting Book Two. Which I sold and the announcement went live yesterday. I can now tell you the title: THE STATIC GRAY. 

Yay! It’s going to be awesome. I’m ecstatic that I get to continue on with this story. It’s incredibly fun to write.

Because I was asked: I don’t keep a writing page on Facebook. I don’t think they’re useful. I’d have to keep up with it for starters (and you all know how good I am with that! SNICKER). But also with the algorithm now, any page I’ve “liked” on FB I rarely see anyway. It’s annoying! I like them because I want to see them. 

Instead I decided to open my Facebook page to followers. I post a combo of “open” and “private” posts, so you will see stuff. Usually book stuff which is what I would have put on a writing page anyway. I won’t however accept friendship unless I know you. I post too much stuff with my kids and as they’ve asked for their lives to be more private, I’ve got to respect that. 


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Patronus Charms and Other Sparkly Things

The biggest problem with this blog is that I’m not sure what it wants to BE.

Writing here used to be easy. It was a catalog of my family’s adventures as we moved around the world. It was mostly for my family so that I could keep in touch and share our stories. The majority of those posts have been taken off-line at this point. 

My kids were small then, and didn’t have opinions about what I posted about them online. Now they’re savvy and know how to navigate their way to my blog and do NOT want me posting about them. They don’t care so much that I post cell phone pictures on Instagram as long as my account is locked (they’re words, not mine). They’re a little more hesitant when I share stories on Facebook.

Which limits the stories I can tell here as well as the pictures I can post. 

I also don’t want this blog to become a “Hey, I’m an author website, so I’ll only talk about my books!” site. That would take away the joy of writing here.

July is already busy five days in. I’ve joined Camp NaNo and I’m in a cabin with other local writers. That’s been fun. I’ve made no secret that the NaNo format doesn’t work for me. I never “win.” And admittedly, I don’t ever try. 

Writing a bunch of words in a document so that I have to sort through them later is NOT the way I write. I’m a big proponent of write the way that makes you successful, and that’s not the NaNo way for me.


I LOVE the community, especially here in Vegas. I’ve landed in a place where people actively write and they have a continuous presence both online and in person throughout the year. I love it.

So I’ll be spending July writing, which I’d be doing anyway (haha). But I also have an edit that I have to do, so I may not get too many words on the page. If I can make 30K, I’ll be thrilled.

Here’s a 4th of July picture. We’re practicing our patronus charms. Mine is a honey badger.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Breaking Light

I meant to write this post last week. I really, really did. But then I got busy and, you know… LIFE.

Anyway, I was on the phone with my mom grumbling under my breath about Blogger. Seriously, what’s up with it? It’s being all funky. It won’t let me type in the text box. I had to write this on a separate document and copy it in.

Mom: What are you doing, writing a blog post?

Me: Yes.

Mom: Don't make me faint.

She thinks she’s a comedian!

Which leads me to another conversation I had with her (and the entire point of this post):

A while back I had a shiny new idea for a book.

Me: I was thinking, it would be cool to write a Romeo and Juliet story.

Her: Sounds good.

Me: But gender switch them.

Her: What?

Me: Yeah, and make it Science Fiction. And they can live in the dark! How cool would that be?

Her: What are you even talking about?

Me: Trust me, you’re going to love it.

And so I wrote it. And it sold. And I’m freaking out.

Now it’s summer and we’re doing summer things. Which includes Bekah deciding that she’s going to write a book too since, you know, “It looks like an easy enough way to make money.”

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spring Break Stay-cation

There was a moment yesterday when I realized that I needed to cull the chaos of my life and bring it down a notch before I had a mental break. One of those things involved a Spring Break trip to Big Bear: a week without internet or television, two dogs in limited space, people who would be bored out of their skulls, and me with lots and lots of work to do.

I made an executive decision to cancel it. I told the kids that we’d have a stay-cation instead where they would have limited rules (obey, don’t fight, and no eating in the bedrooms — Bekah hates the not eating in the rooms rule is still being enforced) but other than that, they can pretty much do what they want. I won’t monitor what they’re eating (as a matter of fact, there are items currently in the house that I do not normally purchase: cookies, chips, and other crappy junk), they won’t have a bedtime, they don’t have to get dressed or showered at all if they don’t choose to, and I won’t force them to leave the house unless it’s voted on (majority rules).

We did however tell them that they have to spend family time with us every day (movies, board games, etc) for a minimum of 2 hours. And that the world goes back to normal on Thursday when Steven goes back to work so that their sleep schedules can get back on track. Plus they’ll probably stink by then and I’ll be going nuts about it.

Bekah: So that means that if I’m on my iPad at 3am, I won’t be grounded?

Steven: As long as you don’t wake me up, we won’t have a problem.

Bekah: And I can eat cookies and ice cream all day?

Me: There is real food to make for lunches like sandwiches or ramen, and we do have dinners planned, but it’s mostly easy stuff like hot dogs and hamburgers. We also bought some steaks. 

Steven: Grilled stuff.

Bekah: This is going to be the best vacation ever! Better than Hawaii!

Seriously? Staying home and not getting dressed for a week, eating sugar 24/7, and never sleeping is a better vacation than Hawaii?! Who knew this would make my kids so happy? I could have saved THOUSANDS of dollars on vacations over the years! What the heck?

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Spark Notebook

The Spark Notebook has changed my life. I love it. It’s a planner-like notebook with weekly self-reflection prompts, calendar, goals (yearly/monthly/weekly), achievement progress, and weekly/daily tracking. I don’t use it for a planner because it’s bound (hardcover, like a book) which makes it impossible for me to utilize it in that capacity (I use the HappyPlanner for actual planning), but you could if that’s what you wanted.

I decided to use the Spark Notebook for my 2016 writing journal. Jotting down all the shiny new ideas I have, noting anything I think about involving characters and plot, big epiphanies I have about structure and content, keeping track of my daily/weekly/monthly writing goals, etc. It’s become a journal where I tuck everything that’s loose in my brain so it has a place to be.

I have kept writing journals for a while and they don’t tend to do me much good because I can’t stand anything unstructured. Especially when it’s ANOTHER blank page to fill. ZZZZ. But in this case it’s easy because I only have to fill in one block. And if I need, I have several per day.

It’s been excellent for planning my month ahead, and then breaking it down to work on small bits of it per week. I’ve found that the weekly self-reflection pages have helped to put me in a more focused mindset to write or edit.

I thought about the other applications I personally could use it for:

A daily journal.
Keeping track of fitness/weight loss goals and progress.
Photography ideas/shoots

I’d share pictures of mine but it’s morphed into a personal glimpse of my thought process. I didn’t realize how much having a structured book could become so much more for me than a blank journal.


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